Looking for a study experience beyond the norm, Adrien from France and Marie from Austria both found their way to Bachelor programmes at CODE University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. Both felt frustrated by a traditional university setting and were looking for a place where their creativity could thrive - and they found it. If you’re looking for a hands-on tech education integrated into the fabric of one of the world’s most diverse, innovative cities, CODE might just be for you – read on for Adrien’s and Marie’s take:
Adrien: CODE matched what I was looking for: diversity, stimulation and innovation. I realised that my motivation to wake up every morning comes from interactions with inspiring people. The CODE community is a crazy melting pot of backgrounds and personalities, with students from 64 different countries. At the same time, I felt that all students are united around a common aspiration: innovation for a better society. As soon as I understood that, I decided to join CODE.
Marie: After high school I was struggling with finding a university and programme that offered the type of learning experience I was looking for. After studying three different subjects at two different universities in three years, my dad sent me CODE’s website. I was immediately intrigued by CODE’s approach and how they focused more on the practical learning experience. I applied and loved that working on an individual challenge was part of the application process.
The moment that I knew I wanted to study here was my admission day. Everyone from CODE’s side was extremely friendly and open-minded and shared a passion for doing something valuable, which inspired me so much and still does to this day.
Beyond projects with a corporate partner, there are a number of other opportunities. For example, I’ve learned a lot from talks by industry experts, office visits and CV/portfolio coaching.
Adrien: CODE aims to empower every student to solve real societal problems. Being connected to companies is a must in order to understand the nuts and bolts of how the industry works. This has a strong impact on our learning experience: understanding how Porsche, Zalando or Amazon think and solve problems. Concretely, there are multiple opportunities to organise and attend workshops with companies, collaborate on projects and do internships with them. More and more companies want to work with us and new opportunities are constantly arising for students.
Marie: Though I’ve never worked on a longer project with a corporate partner, there are a number of other opportunities on offer. For example, I’ve learned a lot from different talks by industry experts, office visits (pre-covid) and (my favourite) CV/portfolio coaching.
Adrien: Product Management is a transdisciplinary field at the intersection of business development, human resources, software engineering and interactive design, and you can adapt your studies to focus on what interests you. I’m studying the full spectrum of digital project development: understanding the problems and challenges of our current civilization, finding innovative solutions, concretising those solutions into viable products, understanding the market and business development, defining tasks for your team, understanding software and design development, setting short- and long-term strategy, and human resource management: personal development, leadership and teamwork.
Marie: The most important thing that the BA Interaction Design has taught me is to first look more closely at the problem I’m trying to solve and really try to understand the user’s point of view. This perspective has changed the way I approach a project and gave me more opportunities to actually solve the core problems that users are experiencing.
At CODE, the whole approach to learning is different. We don’t have lectures or exams, but rather work on a project of our own choosing for one or more semesters.
Adrien: One random Monday morning I arrived at the CODE campus. I first met Hao, at the front door, a student working on a chatbot project. Then, we joined Tetiana, who’s working on a digital library, in the elevator. That was just before talking to Jonathan, who is working on a voice analysis app. After that, I saw Simon in the kitchen who’s working on an intelligent indoor-farming project. I finally arrived at my workspace to collaborate with Heiko on a new communication tool.
It was 9:05 am and I had already met people from China, Russia, Canada, Germany and South Africa, and discussed computer interfaces, book organisation, voice analysis, farming and communication. This is the kind of day where I feel stimulated.
Marie: My favourite memory is our onboarding days. We were invited to three days outside of Berlin with all the new students to get to know each other. It was great: we played some sports, chilled, had fun, and talked about what we’ll study at CODE.
Adrien: Before CODE, I studied at the National School of Fine Arts in Lyon for two years. Even in art, the learning experience is very academic. This is not necessarily bad - it totally fits for many people - but for me it didn’t. Traditional university teaches you theoretical knowledge you might need for future experiences. CODE has a flipped pedagogy: we let experience define the knowledge we need and we learn by directly applying knowledge to projects. Learning is experimenting. This is what we call project-based learning. I see my friends at other universities being assessed on how much knowledge they remember for the exam; at CODE, we’re evaluated on the way we apply knowledge to our project.
Marie: First, and most important, the whole approach to learning is different and this reflects in the way the study journey is built. We don’t have lectures or exams, but rather work on a project of our own choosing for one or more semesters. At traditional universities, I was always afraid to make a mistake on exams. At CODE, failure is appreciated and encouraged - as long as you learn something from it.
Adrien: I really enjoy living in Berlin. It’s like CODE: diverse, dynamic and mixed. It’s the only city I’ve seen without a true city centre: It’s a beautiful mess. There is always something happening, and everyone can be what they aspire to be. Berlin is also a huge hotspot of innovation, and it’s the centre of Europe, bridging West and East.
On a practical note, though many people speak English, to conquer the heart of real Berliners, you will need German.
Marie: I love Berlin. It’s big, beautiful and has it dirty bits, which I adore. Coming from another major city, I was used to the noise, but Berlin offers more. We have great museums, art exhibitions, parks, installations, clubs, bars, restaurants and people from all over the world. It’s a big melting pot and I love it. It’s become my second home.
What’s surprised me is how people in Berlin are so rude and nice at the same time, and how almost no one is originally from here. And how good and cheap the food is!
I really enjoy living in Berlin. It’s like CODE: diverse, dynamic and mixed.
Adrien: An organisation called CHANCEN eG allows students to study at CODE without paying immediately. They pay CODE for us and when we reach a certain level of income we start paying them back. This allows everyone to study at CODE without discriminating against low-income students. Also, it shows that CODE believes in its education.
Adrien: Reach out to students! Send an email to CODE and ask them to talk to students. This is your best opportunity to get the information you need. The recruitment process is not like others: don’t try to be ‘better than others’, just be you and honestly ask yourself, ‘Is CODE the place where I belong?’
Marie: If you are truly passionate about digital products, show it. Be curious to learn, be open to new experiences and be creative.
My experience at CODE: unique, diverse, challenging, self-directed, limitless
Adrien: CODE quickly adapted to the situation. We use all kinds of technology to communicate, work and learn with peers and professors. The professors really do their best to develop interactive classes - there are no classes where I sit in front of Zoom listening to a professor for an hour. We all interact and co-learn together. Of course, my experience in CODE before the pandemic was more intense and stimulating, and I hope it will end soon. I think we’ve all learnt a lot through this huge challenge.
Marie: Obviously, studying in a remote setting doesn’t compare to an on-campus experience, because we have so many classes that work better in person. But CODE is trying its best to support our study experience through the pandemic with remote classes, remote demo days, introductions to remote tools and everything else. It’s not the perfect situation but we’re making it work.
Adrien: Unique, diverse, challenging, self-directed, limitless.
Marie: Made me love digital products.
376 Computer Science & IT Bachelors in Europe
This article was produced and published in cooperation with CODE University of Applied Sciences.